x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Late foreign affair paying off for Baniyas

Judging by the results thus far in the Arabian Gulf League, Baniyas' 11th-hour efforts to acquire foreign aid have paid off.

This is a sight Baniyas fans are getting used to -  Marcelo Pereira, right, celebrating a goal. He, along with Carlos Munoz and Luis Farina, have led the team's foreign legion. Satish Kumar / The National
This is a sight Baniyas fans are getting used to - Marcelo Pereira, right, celebrating a goal. He, along with Carlos Munoz and Luis Farina, have led the team's foreign legion. Satish Kumar / The National

Baniyas worked in the transfer market until the final hour of the closing date for player registration. Judging by the results thus far in the Arabian Gulf League (AGL) their 11th-hour efforts have paid off.

Carlos Munoz, the Chile international, was the first to sign a deal, replacing the Egyptian Mohamed Zidan, who was out of action for most of the first season of his two-year contract after suffering a knee injury.

Luis Farina, the Argentine forward, was next to arrive, taking the place of the Sweden international Christian Wilhelmsson, who was released after signing a contract extension in the summer. Marcelo Leite Pereira, the Brazilian winger, was a last-minute signing for Andre Senghor, the Senegalese striker who had served for three years at the club but was transferred to Al Wasl.

Munoz, Farina and Pereira scored on their AGL debuts, and they account for six of the eight goals Baniyas have scored over three games.

And when they are not scoring, they create opportunities for teammates. This was evident in their last game in the League Cup against Al Wahda, which Baniyas won 1-0 to keep their unbeaten record in all competitions.

Farina set up Mohammed Bargash on the right flank. The Argentine then ran almost in unison with Munoz and Pereira as if they were going to attack from the centre. They drew the entire Wahda defence, which left Bargash unmarked. The midfielder ran inside the box to score.

Munoz has scored three times, Farina two and Pereira came off the bench midway through the second half to get his name on the scoresheet in their 4-1 win over Dubai.

The South America trio have impressed with their all-around attacking play. They possess high technical skills, which are expected from any foreign signing, but what makes them different is their youth and pace, having adapted well to blend as a solid attacking unit.

Munoz, 24, and Farina, 22, are the two front men. Pereira, 26, plays on the wing, and the trio complement each other.

Baniyas have been meticulous in their planning and have understandably worked in consultation with their coach, Jorge da Silva, to make the right choices on their foreign signings.

According to Da Silva, their best is yet to be seen by fans.

“They need more time and play more games,” he said. “They will improve as the season progresses.”

The club made no secret of their objectives this season.

“We have been looking at young players who have the motivation to make something for their future,” Mubarak Al Mehrum, the club’s chairman, said earlier in the season. “Baniyas needed some new blood, some new energy in the foreign section. That is why we have got players who are in the same age group as our Emirati players.

“We would not have made these changes if we were not sure we are going to be challenging for the titles. Our target is to fight for all three domestic championships this year.

“We want Baniyas to be one of the best clubs in the region, not just UAE.”

apassela@thenational.ae

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